Fact Check

Just Desserts

An unwary hostess tries to pass off a cake purchased at a bake sale as her own handiwork.

Published July 29, 2000


Legend:   An unwary hostess tries to pass off a cake purchased at a bake sale as her own handiwork.

Example:   [Brunvand, 1999]

Most everyone in town knows these two ladies, so they will remain anonymous for obvious reasons. [So reported a small-town Canadian newspaper in 1982.]

The first lady was to bake a cake for the church ladies' group bake sale, but she forgot to do it until the last minute. She baked an angel food cake, and when she took it out of the oven, the center had dropped flat.

Oh dear, there was no time to bake another cake, so she looked around the house for something to build up the centre of the cake.

She found it in the bathroom, a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in and covered it with icing. The finished product looked beautiful, so she rushed it to the church.

She then gave her daughter some money and instructions to be at the sale the minute it opened and to buy that cake and bring it home.

When the daughter arrived at the sale, the attractive cake had already been sold. The lady was beside herself.

A couple of days later the same lady was invited to a friend's home where two tables of bridge were to be played that afternoon.

After the game a fancy lunch was served, and to top it off, the cake in question was presented for dessert.

After the lady saw the cake, she started to get off her chair to rush into the kitchen to tell her hostess all about it. But before she could get to her feet, one of the other ladies said, "What a beautiful cake!"

The first lady sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess say, "Thank you, I baked it myself."

Origins:   Renowned folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand mentions the same story turned up in a Sydney, Australia, newspaper around 1980, also told there as a local occurrence.

Certain details of the tale lead one to conclude it's more a matter of lore than anything else. Angel food cake is

Hol(e)y pan; angelic cake

traditionally baked in a special tube pan because this delicate confection calls for unusual baking methods. This version of a sponge cake will thus have a hole in the middle, with the cake presented as a tall, white ring. (Angel food cakes employ only the white of the egg, whereas sponge cakes call for both yolk and white, in case you were wondering what the difference is.)

Should an angel food cake fall as a result of improper baking, what would need to be repaired is not the hole in the middle, but the body of the cake itself. Inserting a toilet paper tube into the mass and trying to form up icing around it would not work. More simply stated, the hole is already there; what's missing is the cake.

This is a legend about dishonesty punished. The hapless hostess who boldfacedly claims the work of another as her own is about to be revealed for the liar she is. In an accidental fashion, the cake baker had included a copyright trap in her work.

Barbara "angel food for thought" Mikkelson

Last updated:   27 December 2004

  Sources Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good To Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 70-71).